The earthquake and resulting tsunami that swept over thousands of miles from Sumatra to East Africa in the last week of 2004 killed an estimated 150,000 people -- the death toll keeps rising -- and remade the coasts of the Asian subcontinent. The dead were from some dozen countries, including India, Sri Lanka, Thailand -- 80,000 in Indonesia alone. And from each of these countries, there were immigrants in New York City, who tried to contact friends and family, worried about them, mourned their loss -- and organized relief efforts on their behalf.

The catastrophe ended a year that had begun with great hope. Nobody knows what's going to happen this year, but immigrants begin 2005 with far less hope than 2004. A year ago President George W. Bush announced a guest worker program that would allow undocumented immigrants to work and live in the country legally, a plan that a year later, has gone nowhere.

What has happened is a rise in deportations with nearly 13,000 illegal immigrants who voluntarily participated in special registration program being issued notices to leave the country (NY Times). Some have already been deported but many others are filing appeals. The number of appeals has risen by nearly 1,000 percent after special registration.

In New York federal court, there are at least 4,000 immigration appeals waiting. In December the U.S. Department of Justice had to order hundreds of its lawyers in Washington and around the country to take on immigration cases as part of an emergency effort to clear a large backlog in the New York federal courts. (Washington Post).

In this January edition of The Citizen, we take a look at the major immigrant-related stories of 2004,and some minor ones as well, culled from the Bengali, Chinese, Spanish-language and Urdu press via our partner, Voices That Must Be Heard.

Federal Building Plaza

2004: Shorter Lines, Just As Much Frustration
From Gotham Gazette
Though 2004 began as a year of great hope for New York’s immigrants, it will probably be remembered mostly as the year the lines in front of the immigration office disappeared -- without that meaning very much.

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Undocumented drivers appeal to Pataki
From Hoy
Immigrant groups asked Governor George Pataki to intervene in the Department of Motor Vehicle’s campaign to suspend the drivers licenses of those who don’t possess Social Security numbers.

New York City ID
From The World Journal
The City Council wants to issue City ID s to undocumented immigrants.

Philippine Consulate Card
From Filipino Express
In order to help Filipinos open bank accounts and receive medical care, the Philippine Consulate General will issue Consular IDs that are official forms of identification for Filipinos in the United States, regardless of immigration status.

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Voting Rate Spikes in Chinatown
From The World Journal
Voter turnout in the Asian community in Chinatown increased by 24.2 percent from two years ago, according to Board of Elections statistics.

Immigrants' Reaction To Tsunami Disaster
From Gotham Gazette
After the news of the tidal wave disaster reached New York the day after Christmas, immigrants around the city desperately tried to contact their loved ones and started to give donations to help out their home countries.

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Police Reached Out to Sikh Community
From Urdu Times
The Justice Department has distributed posters to the police and other law enforcement agencies so that they respect the religious sensitivities of the Sikh community.

Muslim T.V.
From Weekly Thikana
The Muslim community in America has launched a cable TV channel to dispel common misunderstandings .

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Model Minority?
From The World Journal
Asian high school students have a reputation for diligence, cruising through school with honors. But Chinese children of new immigrants are increasingly prone to truancy, failing or flunking out of the education system.

Below the Poverty Line
From Pakistan Post
An Asian American Federation report reveals that Pakistani Americans are relatively impoverished compared to New York’s population in general.


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